Ruhr-Universitšt Bochum
Englischkurs II im Sommersemester 1996


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Hong Kong xiang1gang3’

Every 100 years the bamboo blooms and - dies thereafter.

What about Hong Kong? On the occasion of the important change next year we want to tell you something about the end of British colonialism.

Hong Kong - at the time being British Territory (the last crown colony)

- is situated in the Southeast of the People’s Republic of China and is - regarding to the landscape - part of the province Guangdong.

It is one of the busiest region all around the world with its

nearly 6 millions of inhabitants.

Here you can take a glance at the different and rich variety of the faces of Hong Kong. There are very prosperous men, the skyscrapers of rich companies and the well-equipped stores and shops. Nevertheless, on the other side there are the slums with uncountable refugees and the poor.

Due to the limited area most of the urban inhabitants have to live in narrow flats. Often the bathroom is built into the balcony. A three-person-family has 25 m≤ and pays DM 1.000,-- for it. The monthly income amounts to about DM 5.000,-- while both are employed. In contrast to that a landlord divided the floors of his house in cages with 2 m≤ each and lets them for DM 100,-- per month.

Only a small number of natives live on their boats and in huts away from the crowded places. Most of them are unable to read and to write. But they do their business and earn their living, because they can count.

Although it belongs to Great Britain since 1840 (Treaty of Nanking 1842) Hong Kong will revert to China according to that Treaty.

Because Hong Kong is still a British crown colony, Hong Kong people do not know democracy in practice.

The present British governor, Sir Christopher Patten, really knows that beyond 1997 the Chinese Communism will rule, but he tries to introduce the beginning of a democratic status. The Hong Kong citizens should be prepared for the change in the near future.

Will democracy have a real chance there?


Now AKN will show the historical background and events.

The first question is: Why was it in the 19th century so necessary for England to open the door to China?

I want to explain the main reason: England’s economic growing.

In the first half of the 19th century England got industrialized and the more industry the more products were manufactured. But the more is produced the more has to be sold to make sure the economic growing will continue. So England searched for a new, untouched market and found China. At that point of time China was self-sufficient and had no need of products of any other country. The conditions for the British merchants were bad. The Europeans were treated like barbarians by Chinese officials, with whom direct communication was forbidden. The British merchants were dissatisfied with the regulations governing trade and with the arbitrary custom duties and port charges. They generally believed that the Chinese would never alter these regulations and charges except by force. But they found a way of getting rich by China. The only good China needed seemed to be opium. After several years every second person smoked opium even some officials became addicted to it. The English merchants had to be paid with silver, but the Chinese merchants were mostly paid with opium. The consequence was an outflow of silver that created internal economic difficulties because the Chinese government didn’t earn anything on the opium trade forbidden by itself. The growth of the illegal opium trade forced the Emperor to act.

On the 18th March 1839 he ordered all opium in the possession of foreign merchants to be given up and a bond to be signed by each individual that no opium would be imported in future on penalty of death. The consequence by England was a military intervention started in 1840 after the imprisoning of their Superintendent of Trade Captain Elliot by the Chinese who wanted about 20,000 chests of opium to be handed over.

On 20th January 1841 a meeting was arranged by the Chinese to make an agreement for stopping the war. But although the convention in fact was never signed because both sides didn’t come to terms, Hong Kong Island was occupied by the British military on 26th January 1841. At that time it was a little fishing village with natural anchorages. From Hong Kong the illegal opium trade was continued. During the war England got reinforcement. On the Yangzijiang the British gun boats advanced into the North up to Nanking. After Nanking had been occupied the Chinese government capitulated. In the following treaty Hong Kong had to be surrendered to England. Other skills of the treaty can be summarized as follows:

- several ports had to be opened for the European trade,

  • (- a war compensation in the height of 21 million dollars had to be paid and from that time England should be the most privileged country.)
  • Now the door to China was opened and people, ideas and products from the west overtook it like a tidal wave. (Other countries like France and the U.S.A. came after.)

    But the peace didn’t last long. In 1856 the Chinese occupied a junk sailed under the British flag and arrested the crew because they were [it was] accused to smuggle opium. It wasn’t rare that Chinese junks shipped under a British flag to smuggle opium with a less risk. The Chinese weren’t allowed to put one foot on the ship. England used this event to assemble their forces and to begin an assault. After two years of an exhausting war it was concluded by the Treaty of Tientsin. The Chinese promised to open additional ports to trade, and to agree to receive a British diplomatic mission resident at Beijing.

    (However, Hong Kong was vitally affected by the war. In first place the process by which the island ceased to be the headquarters of British trade and administration in China was accelerated because all the English power wasn’t concentrated on Hong Kong any longer.) Due to the Treaty of Tientsin China became a half-colony. The South up to Shanghai made progress. New universities were founded and companies mushroomed up. On the other side the North still fully controlled by the Chinese Emperor stood still in its progress. Now China got two faces: a European and a Chinese one.

    After the Sino-Japanese war had been concluded the European nations confirmed their pretension to their possessions and signed agreements in which China was obliged to renounced several areas for a longer period, for example Jiaozhou should belong for 99 years to Germany and from the

    1st July 1898 Hong Kong should belong to England for 99 years. While Germany lost its pretension in the Treaty of Versaille 1915, Hong Kong is still a part of Great Britain until next year. Only in the Second World War the colony fell to the Japanese in December 1941. The Japanese occupation was brought to an end by the British military on 30th August 1945.

    When Mao gained power in 1949 he built the so-called "Iron Bamboo Curtain" between the communist China and the capitalist Hong Kong. So many Chinese people fled to the British Territories. There they got a residence permit and started a new and often successful life. It was the beginning of the growing of Hong Kong.

    In 1984 the British Prime Minister, Ms Thatcher, signed the treaty for the return of the British Territories to China.

    Fare well, Honk Kong!


    2001-10-15 . JfhL